A conversation in another thread led me to think about wool. What's wrong with wearing wool? We think of bucolic scenes, with cheep grazing the spring clover, then standing calmly while grooming technicians soothingly trim their wool..... or not.
Actually, depends on what is your value system, your reason for being vegetarian (assumed, as a member of this forum - veg, vegan, or v-friendly).
In terms of ethical vegetarianism - caution, the video is stomach-turning.
Here we are:
Most of the Youtube videos were restricted due to graphic imagery. Here is a link to the full video from PETA - it's so gruesome I had trouble looking at it.
I think the answer is, most of the time we can't know. If the video is correct and 50% of the world's wool comes from Australian sheep grown in such conditions, then it's fair to assume that unless otherwise labeled, you have a 50% chance that a sweater or blanket was made in conditions as bad as any slaughterhouse, with conditions that look like torture while alive. I don't know if the same conditions are used for US, Scottish, or other sheep. The other aspect is, those sheep wind up slaughtered anyway, so even though you don't eat the wool, the same concepts apply.
I won't try to tell other people what to do, but for me, I won't buy wool. Maybe from Goodwill, or estate sale, or yard sale, since that's recycle, but not new.
Then there are greenhouse gas issues, with methane production. Ag scientists are working on drugs to give them to reduce methane production, but not currently a reality.
It sounds like the woman who made your arm warmers must be obtaining from a more local source, since she dyes her own wool. That sounds like a step in the right direction.
I have suspicion that wool labeled "Merino" might be something to be cautious of. The video states that Merino sheep are bred specially to have loose skin with many folds, thus more wool, and the folds of skin are what lead to the problems of magget infestations in the anal area, which again leads to some of the cruel practices of cutting off large patches of anal area skin, which is done without sedation or pain killer.
I have stayed away for quite some time from natural fibers for these reasons. However, in the past year I've come to a slightly different viewpoint.
What it mostly boils down to when choosing to not dress in natural fibers (specifically for cold climes) is that we're dressing in petrochemical byproducts. Now how is that in any way better.
My newfound peace in this matter is to give any encouragement I can to local producers of caring farming practices.
I've recently contacted the Council of Canadian wool producers complaining of the rarity of Canadian wool on the market. The answer saddened me. Due to petrochemical Winter clothing, the demand for Canadian wool had fallen beyond sustainability. There are now a few sheep and alpaca farms scattered here and there, who do practice caring farming, to a point. Their problem is there are no longer local processing plants for their wool and they must ship it out.
I think we'd do good to recognise that petrochemical clothing is not really more PC than wearing animals. I think our best route is to encourage caring farming, bring things back to older values.
On our overpopulated planet, there is no truly 100% effective answer. But I support ex-vegetarians who've become farmers and occasionally eat the meat and ovo/dairy produced on their caring farms, their OWN production. It makes me think that it's what I will end of doing for my own retirement is starting a little sustainable farm and simply grow my own food and clothes, hopefully in some sort of community effort.
Unfortunately, politically speaking, this will become more and more difficult as agribusiness has been taking advantage of the global rural exodus to take over prime farm lands and changing government policies to make it impossible to even operate a small family farm. Agribusiness is now in control of governmental agricultural policy-making.
I don't know to what level this is at on a world scale, but I do know it's happening big time in Quebec where many people want to make the choice of a little family farm with a house and a barn with a couple of fields, and they're finding purchasing such property is nearly impossible legally.
I love PETA for making us aware of these problems, but I think their solutions may in the long run be very harmful to our planet.
I appreciate your intent on protecting all animal life, I've abided by that most of my life. It's fine when you're living somewhere that doesn't get REALLY COLD. Only since I've moved back up north has this become an issue once again in my life. Up here near the arctic, you either wear animal or petrochemical. No other vegetable replacement will do. So it's not even relevant 99% of humanity, only those of us living in the farther North.
I think of my grandmother who died 5 years ago age 96. She wore this one wild beaver coat ALL her life. No consumerism, no farming, no destruction of nature. As soon as we place priority on stopping the viral growth of the human population, we will live more at peace with nature. I think of the Inuit, my neighbours, who have lived in igloos up until the last 30 years. They'd wear boots made of fish skin and coats from seals, without wastage, one or two during their entire life.
We live in a throw-away society and protection of animals goes beyond protecting a few of them in the limelight, just as saving children does not benefit from religious child sponsorships programs.
I believe there is a point of balance that can be struck between humans and the rest of the living kingdoms, but only if we stop procreating, which I'm doing already.
The synthetic really cold weather gear we can buy has no lifespan, it is participating in a consumer throw-away society. Saving the environment does save animals. I place the global environment first, in order to save the wildlife we have.
As the old EarthFirst mantra used to say: kill cows not bears! that was meant metaphorically.
When it comes to farmed animals, the happiest way is to simply not exist. But I dare say that if I started a alpaca wool farm in Canada, I'd sure as hell make damn sure that these animals were happy, and I'd be pushing government for such standards. I think humans not using animals in the ABSOLUTE will never happen. It is more efficient to lobby for humane treatment. PETA is not saying boycott ALL wool, it is asking to boycott Australian wool, because Merino sheep should not actually even be living in Australia, they don't belong, just like the cane toads don't belong. I think that is very reasonable to boycott Australian wool. And I've just written to both our Western Canadian Merino people, MEC and Coast Mountain, to ask them whether their garments are from Australian or New Zealand wool. New Zealand has banned the mulesing practice.
MEC has a pretty good sustainability policy, but we don't have one in Whitehorse. I'd have to use several barrels of oil to fly to the nearest one, several thousand km away :)
And please don't use the whole "romanticising" line on me, I'm not romanticising. I'm saying that using animal products in a reasonable sustainable way has less impact than our throw-away culture. This throw-away culture is destroying natural habitat. We MUST attack this end too. I value tigers and polar bears more than sheep. Sheep should be treated kindly yes, by all means. But if using their wool means saving habitat, I put habitat first.
This is an issue for me too. I use alot of manmade materials that are basically plastics made by workers in China making slave wages. I don't feel very good about that either. Money is tight. Value judgments have to be flexible. I just try to do my best and stay informed. I've never liked wool anyway, but like eggs, if I personally knew the farmers and the animals and was confident of their care, I would not consider that product off limits. I just prefer to avoid them because I don’t like them. Eggs smell of wet chicken to me when they are cooking and wool makes me itch. I even have silk curtains. They were cast offs people were tossing out and I was able to re-purpose them. I live vegan and always endeavor to cause the least amount of harm. But I am very happy when I see people trying to be more humane within the animal product industries and on small hobby farms.